A winter menagerie

  • This is a photo of the younger of the two rabbits that visited my deck for breakfast. Note that the mourning dove in the background is quite unconcerned about the rabbit's presence. For the Recorder/Bill Danielson—

  • The older rabbit is in the foreground and, again, the cardinal in the top left corner couldn't have cared less about the presence of rabbits. For the Recorder/Bill Danielson

Published: 1/6/2020 8:39:03 AM
Modified: 1/6/2020 8:38:33 AM

On Dec. 31, I woke up in the morning knowing what I was going to write about. I even had the photos picked out and I was well on my way to having a column outlined and partially written in my head. This is often how I work, with the sitting and typing being the final stage. Occasionally, I invent as I type, but I prefer to have an outline in my head before I start.

I was so comfortable with my choice of topics (you’ll read about it next week) that I decided to allow myself the pleasure of sitting at my kitchen window with a warm cup of coffee so I could enjoy the final morning of 2019. Out the window, I saw a landscape that had endured yet another shellacking at winter’s hand. On Dec. 30, I received a generous coating of ice at my house and during the night the temperature fluctuated and dropped some snow on the ground.

This resulted in a rather attractive “crust” of rough, white ice on most surfaces.

It was dark and gloomy outside and there wasn’t really much opportunity for photography, so I put out some bird seed and had a wonderful time noting the arrival times of different species and the maximum numbers of each type of bird that I saw at any one time. For instance, if I saw six blue jays at one point and then eight blue jays five minutes later, then I recorded a total of eight blue jays seen, which prevents inflating numbers by counting the same individuals twice. This all went quite well and I managed to fill up the final page of my 2019 journal with all sorts of interesting data.

All of the regular birds had been observed and all of the regular events had happened in roughly the “right” order. I was actually getting ready to transition into writing mode when I happened to notice a movement low and to the left of my seat. I shifted my gaze and was delightfully surprised to see myself looking at a rabbit.

This was quite odd because the rabbits I have seen at my feeders are usually around in the earliest, gloomiest parts of the morning. I saw this particular rabbit at 8:15 a.m., which was quite late in the morning for a rabbit sighting. The world had brightened up a bit and I worked a little magic with the settings on my camera so that my attempts at photography were working quite well. Still, there was nothing really new there and I had already written about winter rabbits.

I was ready to move on.

Then I was stopped in my tracks by the appearance of a second rabbit. This was definitely something new, so I suddenly became quite a bit more focused on my subjects. The first of the two rabbits was really big, and, from what I could tell, really plump. I imagine the high-quality nutrition (birdseed) had kept this rabbit in tip-top shape and it clearly knew where the food was. The second rabbit was a bit smaller and it seemed torn between the idea of playing games and feeding. The older rabbit would have none of it, however, so they both settled down pretty quickly.

None of the birds seemed to mind the presence of the rabbits, but the final amazing twist on this wonderful scene came when a gray squirrel showed up. Squirrels are usually the heaviest animals at feeding stations and they use this to their advantage to bully the smaller animals. Occasionally a cantankerous red squirrel can put the fear in a gray squirrel, but for the most part, the grays will boss everyone else around.

So, the squirrel dashed onto the deck with all sorts of confidence only to come to an abrupt halt when it realized that something quite different from what it may have expected was happening. You could almost hear the squirrel thinking, “Hey, this isn’t fair.” When the squirrel took a tentative few steps toward “its” food, the larger of the two rabbits turned and took a step toward the squirrel. Perplexed and annoyed, the squirrel repeated this maneuver several times and was rebuffed over and over again.

For my part, I was laughing with the glee of sweet, sweet revenge. Finally, a squirrel had been thwarted by something bigger. I would never have been able to predict such a situation in a million years and seeing it was pure ecstasy. My only regret is that the squirrel never got close enough to the rabbit to get a decent shot with both of them in the same frame. Still, the gods rewarded me with this wonderful situation and I praise them both with the ardor they so deserve — thank you “Nikonus.” Thank you “Iso.” You are truly great.

Bill Danielson has been a professional writer and nature photographer for 22 years. He has worked for the National Park Service, the US Forest Service and the Massachusetts State Parks and currently teaches high school biology and physics. Visit www.speakingofnature.com for more information, or go to Speaking of Nature on Facebook.




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